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Why a Robo Advisor might be right for you

Note: this post is sponsored by ModernAdvisor.ca, but all views and opinions are my own.

02A couple weeks ago, I sold the first stock I ever bought. I bought it back in 2013, it peaked in 2015, and then plummeted shortly afterwards. It was a good lesson in staying patient, because it began to slowly rise again until I was able to sell it for a 61% profit.

I have a small investment portfolio with Questrade – most of my money is in ETFs for long-term (retirement), but I have about $4,000 to $5,000 set aside to play around with individual stocks. I haven’t decided what my next stock purchase is going to be, but I’ve definitely got my eye on a few. :)

Investing is fun for me. I love tracking stocks, rebalancing my portfolio, cheering whenever I get dividends, and seeing my portfolio slowly grow over time. But you know what? Not everyone shares the same passion for investing as me. And that’s where I think a robo advisor like ModernAdvisor.ca can fit in.

Why would you use a robo advisor?
What a robo advisor does is provide you with an easy way to create a solid investing portfolio. And I think this is super important because I have met so many people who are intimidated by investing, or they just don’t have the time and energy to devote to learning about investing, and then managing and growing their own portfolio. So they give their money to a bank and their money gets put into mutual funds instead (the average mutual fund fee in Canada as of 2014 was 2.41%!).

ModernAdvisor.ca uses Exchange Trade Funds (ETFs) which charge much lower fees than mutual funds – most of their portfolios cost less than 0.20%! And after adding in ModernAdvisor’s fee, the cost would be between 0.55% to 0.70%. That could save you 1.71 to 1.86% per year – which may not sound like much, but compounded over 20 or 30 years, and that adds up to some serious cash.

Who would use a robo advisor?

Admittedly, I’m still a DIY advisor (and I think I always will be). Robo advisors are not for me because I’m very comfortable setting up and managing my own portfolio, and since I invest in index funds and ETFs, my portfolio would end up looking quite similar to anything recommended to me through robo advising anyway.

My boyfriend and sister, however, would be the perfect fit for ModernAdvisor’s services. It’s the right balance between DIY investing (which not many people are that interested in), and having to pay the high fees of traditional banking advisors.

They’re both comfortable with online banking, but neither of them know much about investing. They’re not interested in spending hours learning about index funds (and how awesome Dan Bortolotti is) or balancing portfolios, and neither have time to have face-to-face talks with a bank advisor. But they still want their money to go as far as it can. Robo advisors can offer exactly what they’re looking for – a simple portfolio that will grow with the market, with no commissions or sneaky hidden fees.

Why ModernAdvisor?

There are quite a few Canadian robo advisors, so what sets ModernAdvisor apart from the rest of them? There are a few different reasons that come to my mind right away – user friendly website, loads of transparency, and they also have one of the lowest overall fee structures out of all the Canadian robo advisors.

Another big plus about ModernAdvisor is that maintaining their client portfolios goes beyond just rebalancing once or twice a year. They are constantly monitoring their portfolios to make sure they’re investing in the best ETFs for their clients. That means if there’s a better ETF that comes along, they’ll swap their clients into the new fund if it’s appropriate for them. And if you have any questions? You’ll be able to talk to a real human through online chat, phone, or e-mail.

But what I love best is the ability to create a trial account with ModernAdvisor without actually needing to deposit money, or give them your banking information. They’ll even go one step further and will invest $1,000 of their own money on your behalf for 30 days.

If the $1,000 earns money in those 30 days, you will get to keep all of the gains if you decide to open up an account and invest your money. Pretty sweet deal, eh?

AND as a special bonus to GMBMFB readers, ModernAdvisor has agreed to provide everyone with a $50 bonus for opening up a new account in addition to the free 30-day trial and the gains on the $1,000 they’ll invest for you.

Use Promo Code GMBMFB to earn your $50 bonus now!

Does anyone currently use a robo advisor?

How I started investing: Part 3

This is Part 3 of a 3-Part series in how I started investing. If you’re new here, please take a moment to read Part 1: The Beginning, as well as Part 2: DIY Investing!

Part 3: Figuring it Out

Since consulting with a financial advisor three years ago, I’ve made some significant changes in how I invest my money. In Part 2 of this series, I talked about how I rebalanced the asset allocation of my portfolio based on the financial advisor’s advice.

To recap, I was originally investing in 91.7% stocks, 2.7% bonds, and 5.6% cash.

The financial advisor suggested 70% stocks, and 30% bonds, so I readjusted my portfolio to reflect the following:

  • 20% Canadian equity
  • 25% U.S. equity
  • 25% International equity
  • 30% Canadian Bond

I continued to contribute to my TD e-series Funds for the next two years, and it wasn’t until 2013 that I decided I wanted to branch out into ETFs and individual stocks. But because I didn’t have much knowledge outside of these e-series funds, I started by doing a lot of reading online. Particularly Dan Bortolotti’s Canadian Couch Potato blog. I really liked how he laid out each mock portfolio, and I was already on the right track since my portfolio was very similar to Dan’s Global Couch Potato, Option 2:

Option 2: Using individual index mutual funds allows you to keep management fees low and customize the asset mix. TD’s e-Series funds are the best choice, but they are only available to investors who open an online account with TD Canada Trust, or through a TD Direct Investing discount brokerage account. The total annual cost of this portfolio is 0.44%.

When I started saving for retirement in 2007, I was only able to put away $25/month. But just that act of consistently putting away money got me into the habit of saving for retirement. So as my salary grew and my debt shrunk, I was able to contribute more and more. For the past few years, I have been contributing about $750/month towards retirement, and the plan is to keep increasing my contributions as my salary increases as well.

ETFs and Stocks

Early last year, I became interested in investing a little bit of money into the stock market – not enough to jeopardize my savings, but enough to make it interesting. So I started reading. I didn’t really know where to start, but I decided to pay attention to the Business section of the news. I took a look at what companies were doing, researched their stocks, and started tracking a few that I was interested in.

After about 3 or 4 months of monitoring, I decided to take a baby step and buy $1,000 worth of the stock I liked the best (October 2013) through Questrade. Within a few weeks, it plummeted 10%, and I felt pretty bad about it. But, I reminded myself that it wasn’t a lot of money, and the stock market was a lot more volatile than the mutual funds I was used to investing in. Since then, the company has been doing very well, and as of today, it is up 53%. :)

I’ve also invested in my first ETF: the Vanguard FTSE Canadian All Cap (VCN).

Moving Forward

Following the Couch Potato Model, in the coming years, I’ll be looking to advance from the Global Couch Potato over to the Complete Couch Potato portfolio:

The Complete Couch Potato includes additional asset classes while remaining easy to manage. This portfolio is really all the average investor will ever need: it includes almost 10,000 stocks in more than 40 countries, as well as government and corporate bonds of all maturities and additional diversification from real estate and real-return (inflation-protected) bonds. The weighted MER of this portfolio is 0.23%.

I hope to continue to play in the stock market as well – although to a much lesser degree than my mutual funds and ETFs. It was something I was intimidated of for many years, and I don’t think you can ever get over that fear until you take the plunge and make your first purchase. I’m still very cautious and I tend to monitor stocks for many months before buying. In fact, since my first stock purchase in October 2013, I’ve only purchased one other stock – which is up 9.5% since the beginning of the summer. But I have my eye on about 10 stocks at the moment, and I’m excited at making my next purchase. :)

I realized a long time ago that there’s no sense being scared of my money. With no company pension to help me reach my goal of early retirement (and with no confidence that CPP and OAS will be available to me when I retire), I’m going to have to work hard in order to achieve it on my own. Nobody taught me anything about investing, but I’m being proactive in learning and doing. Sure, I’ve made mistakes in the past, and I’ll likely continue to make mistakes. But we all have to start somewhere, right? And thankfully there are helpful blogs and websites out there to help us achieve whatever financial goals we’ve set for ourselves.

Related: What does retirement mean to you?

Anyway, that ends my 3-part series on how I started investing. :) If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a message on this blog post in the comments section, or find me on Twitter at @krystalatwork.

Do you want to share your story on how you started investing? If so, please feel free to email me at krystalatwork@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you, and potentially feature your story here on the blog.

How I started investing: Part 2

This is Part 2 of a 3-Part series in how I started investing. If you’re new here, please take a moment to read Part 1: The Beginning!

In this blog post, I’m going to talk about how I got started managing my own portfolio, as well as the mistakes (and small wins) I made along the way in creating my own DIY investing strategy. :)

DIY Investing

So in Part 1, I left off by talking about how I had just learned about Management Expense Ratios (MER) and the existance of the TD e-series Funds from a blog. As soon as I felt like TD Canada Trust was taking more money away from me than necessary with the high MER on the Balanced Growth Fund they had gotten me to invest in, I made it my mission to try and keep as much of my own money as possible.

After doing a bit of research, I decided that the TD e-series Funds were the right product for me to invest in. The funds seemed straight forward enough, and I was excited to get started! However, because the TD e-series Funds aren’t really managed by TD, it was a huge headache figuring out how to switch my account over (especially because there was very little information on the internet about e-series funds at the time). I’ve talked about my issues with TD a lot on this blog, but finally figured it out.

Related: How to set up a TD e-series account

To be honest, when I finally got my account set up and was able to buy e-series funds, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just started reading about each fund, and randomly purchased ones that sounded interesting. At one point, I had 9 funds in my account: CDN Money Market, Canadian Index-e, U.S. Index-e, European Index-e, Japanese Index-e, CDN Bond Index-e, International Index-e, TD Dividend Growth, TD Balanced Growth.

You’ll notice that I ended up buying another TD fund with a high MER – Dividend Growth. Why did I do that? I have no idea. So you can start to see that even though I was mostly investing in low-fee mutual funds, I was still pretty lost at this point.

Getting help

I continued contributing to these funds over the next couple of years, building my portfolio up to the point where I had almost $40,000 in 2011. It felt great to see my money grow, but at the same time I was questioning whether or not I was on the right path for my goal of early retirement and financial independence. I didn’t have a strategy, and it really started to bother me.

So I made it my goal to start reading articles about investing. I wanted to read all that I could about mutual funds, ETFs, stocks, and some sort of basic investment strategy for someone in my position. But instead, I found myself researching investment advisors instead. Up until that point, I didn’t believe in paying for someone for financial advice. I figured I was young enough to do my own thing through trial and error. And besides, I had the basics down. I knew I was invested in the right mutual funds, and I had the basic understanding of what I needed to do. But nobody had ever seen my investments before, and I began to crave direction and validation.

After looking into investment advisors for a few weeks, I decided that I wanted a “fee-only” advisor, because I was confident that – once given a plan – I could execute it myself. Luckily, through my previous gig with the Toronto Star, my editor asked if I wanted to be a guinea pig and get complimentary advice from a fee-only financial advisor. Of course I said yes immediately. It was perfect timing.

A Rebalancing Act

Above, I mentioned I was invested in 9 different funds at the time:

  • Asset allocation
    • 91.7% stocks
    • 2.7% bonds
    • 5.6% cash
  • Geographic allocation
    • 51.6% Canada
    • 24% U.S.
    • 24.4% International

In speaking with the financial advisor, I learned that while my geographic allocation was good, my asset allocation was too risky. He recommended rebalancing to 70% stock, and 30% bond funds. He also advised that my portfolio was over-diversified. By a lot. For example, the allocations contained in both the European and Japanese Index-e funds were also contained within the International Index-e fund. He also called me out on investing in that Dividend Growth fund, which boasted a lame 2.03% MER. Whoops.

The financial advisor told me that I should simply my portfolio from 9 mutual funds down to just 4, and suggested this allocation:

  • 20% Canadian Index-e
  • 25% U.S. Index-e
  • 25% International Index-e
  • 30% CDN Bond Index-e

It all made sense to me, so I took his advice (to this day, I’m still invested in those 4 mutual funds with that exact percentage allocation). I continued to invest in my TD indexed mutual funds for the next two years, and it wasn’t until 2013 that I took the next step in my DIY investing strategy and branched out.

Part 3 coming soon…

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